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Texas ISD School Guide
Texas ISD School Guide

Travel, Teach, Live in Japan

Japan's Place in Video Game History
By:Michael Russell

Although video games did not come directly from Japan, they differ from other forms of Japanese media as they have been able to penetrate the U.S. market better than any other popular media coming out of Japan. For example, while manga and anime have become a part of some stores, they have their own section, while video games coming from the Land of the Rising Sun are able to sit next to all the video games made in the United States or other places around the world. Unlike anime and manga, Japanese video games aren't labeled under "Japanese". In fact, most consumers aren't even aware where their games are coming from. While Japanese movies and music rarely come to U.S. shores, Japanese video games are a crucial part of that very large industry.

It wasn't always like this, however. The first video game consoles were all American, featuring companies like Atari and Coleco. There were Japanese video games, but they were primarily in arcades and never came over unless an American company brought them to the U.S. The game market crashed in 1983 and it looked like home consoles were going to be a thing of the past.

In Japan, however, the Japanese company Nintendo released their system, the Famicom (also known as the NES in America). The system and its games both sold quite well and it quickly came over to America. The system revived the home console market in America basically by itself.

All the games coming out then were created by Japanese companies since they had already been out in Japan for a year. American developers also used the system for their games since it was the only one out at the time. Everybody was making money, as developers' games sold and Nintendo was the one licensing them all. Other companies around the world found trouble in joining the American market as Nintendo was dominant.

Many American consumers didn't even question the fact that they were buying games from a company called "Nintendo". Americans bought other electronic devices such as cameras and televisions that came from Japan, so it didn't seem that much of a transition to be buying electronic video games from the same country. They were simply buying Japanese video games to play on their Japanese system. In fact, no non-Japanese system has had any success in America except for the X-Box.

Since the early days of gaming, American games have started to slowly gain more and more shelf space though. Now the percentage is about 50-50, though that could possibly be because the Japanese game market has been in its own little decline while the American game market has been on the rise. Still, many of the big game series people have grown to love are from the days of Japan's dominance in the American video game market. It will always hold a special place in the hearts of many gamers, even if its market share continues to be on the decline.

Michael Russell

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